GOVERNMENT forces arrested a Maute group bomb expert in his hideout in Cagayan de Oro City, Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, martial law spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command said Thursday.
Gapay identified the suspect as Mohammad Noaim Maute alias Abu Jadid, a resident of Barangay Poblacion, Butig, Lanao del Sur.
“He was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest dated May 29, 2017 issued by martial law administrator Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana,” Gapay said.
He was one of the more than 100 suspects that Lorenzana had ordered arrested for their alleged role in the attack on Marawi City by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terror groups.
Gapay said the suspect, who used a fake ID from the Mindanao State University, denied he was a Maute and went by the name of Alfaiz P. Mamintal.
According to an intelligence report, a copy of which was obtained by the Manila Standard, Cagayan de Oro was among several cities in Mindanao that the Maute group had intended to bomb.
The others were Cotabato, Pagadian, Iligan, and El Salvador. Also included in their plan were some areas in Maguindanao.
The report said the targets were government forces and civilians, especially in crowded places such as malls, public markets and terminals, and places of worship.
In a radio interview with dzMM Thursday morning, Iligan City Vice Mayor Jemar Vera Cruz said military and police intelligence detected the entry of Maute members in the city.
“They came in the city unarmed,” he said, noting that they might have stashed armaments in undisclosed areas of the city, as they did in Marawi.
The intelligence report said the Maute group had planned to form an Iligan City cell, which would later be joined by terrorists from the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
“Prior to the May 23 clashes in Marawi City, the Maute group had in their plans to bomb the Marawi city hall,” the report said.
It said the group planned to use stolen vehicles for their car-bombing operations in Marawi.
In Marawi, an Australian television journalist was shot in the neck on Thursday as he reported from the war-torn city, but he did not suffer major injuries.
Adam Harvey, a reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, wrote on Twitter: “Lucky,” alongside an image of an X-ray showing the bullet lodged in his neck, close to his spine.
“Thanks everyone—I’m okay. Bullet is still in my neck, but it missed everything important,” he said in another Twitter post.
Harvey was inside the provincial capitol compound where local and foreign journalists have congregated during the more than three weeks of fighting, the government’s crisis management committee spokesman, Zia Alonto Adiong,said.
Although the compound is secured by the military, it is only about two kilometers from the pockets of the city that the Maute gunmen control.
“I want to appeal to everyone you should be very careful because in our assessment the vicinity of the 103rd [military camp], the vicinity of the capitol is within the line of sight of the enemy,” local military spokesman Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera told reporters in the compound after the shooting incident.
Harvey was taken to the nearby city of Iligan for medical treatment, Adiong said.
At least 26 civilians and 58 security forces have died in the conflict, according to authorities. They say more than 200 militants have been killed.
The city of 200,000 people has been largely abandoned due to the fighting, which has seen the military relentlessly bomb the areas held by the militants, with residents fleeing to nearby towns.
However hundreds of civilians are trapped in the militant-controlled areas with some being used as human shields, according to the military.
News of Harvey’s injury seemed to take the Palace spokesman by surprise.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella first used the incident to score foreign media, telling them to be “more objective.”
But in a statement issued hours later, Abella urged journalists covering the clashes in Marawi City to “stay safe.”
“While I understand that you would not shirk your duty in the pursuit of any story, bear in mind that there’s no story more valuable than one’s life. Take the necessary precautions and stay safe while covering conflicts,” Abella said.
He also lauded the media who were “courageously covering the situation in Marawi” and told them to “remain true to your profession in delivering timely, accurate and relevant news to our people.” With AFP
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